While the Timberwolves were without the injured Jimmy Butler, the Warriors were also shorthanded as they would once again be without David West, Andre Iguodala, and, most importantly, Stephen Curry.
While the Warriors led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter and held a seven-point lead at halftime, but they could not maintain that level of play throughout the game as they dropped their second-straight game, losing 109-103 to the Timberwolves.
39 (inefficient) points for KD
For the third consecutive game, all without Curry in the lineup, Kevin Durant posted a very gaudy point total, scoring 39 points against the Timberwolves. This follows his 37-point performance in a win over the San Antonio Spurs and his 40 points in a loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. With Curry out of the lineup, it’s clear that Durant knows that he has the green light to shoot and is taking as many opportunities on offense as he can.
Durant did a great deal of damage on Sunday from beyond the arc, making five shots from three-point rang. This included these two three-pointers as part of a second quarter in which the Warriors turned a 10-point deficit into a seven-point lead.
Back-to-back 3s from KD gives the Warriors a double-digit lead! pic.twitter.com/609oOEAwLn— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) March 11, 2018
Though Durant did end the game with that particularly impressive scoring total, it was a bit deceiving and somewhat out of character for him.
Durant attempted a season-high 32 shots on Sunday, making just 11 of them. He did get to the free-throw line 12 times and made all 12 of his free-throw attempts. But Durant’s impressive offensive numbers against the Timberwolves were largely the result of his volume of shots and did not display the efficiency that we’re so used to seeing from him.
Durant also finished Sunday’s game with 12 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks. It was another impressive statistical performance by Durant but, between his inefficiency and the struggles of his teammates, it ultimately wasn’t enough to earn the Warriors a victory.
Cold shooting, particularly in the fourth, dooms the Warriors
Even though it was an inefficient shooting night for Durant by his own lofty standards, he was nowhere near the worst culprit for the Warriors against the Timberwolves as the team as a whole struggled shooting the ball. The Warriors were off for most of the game, particularly from long distance as they missed countless open three-pointers. The Warriors shot just 27.8 from three-point range, well below their season average of 39.6%.
Klay Thompson has a particularly rough shooting night against the Timberwolves. Though he finished with 21 points, Thompson went 8-for-22 from the field and 3-for-12 from three-point range. With Curry out of the lineup, the Warriors needed Thompson to be more productive to pick up some of the scoring load being shouldered by Durant but unfortunately that was not the case on Sunday.
The Warriors also picked the worst time for their shooting to be the coldest, as they went 6-for-23 from the field as a team in the fourth quarter, including going 1-for-11 from three-point range. Down the stretch, the Warriors had opportunities to take the lead and win the game but their shots just weren’t falling. Some of that had to do with the Timberwolves playing better defense. However, given that they rank near the bottom of the league in opponent’s field goal percentage, luck and bad bounces seem to have played a key role.
Second-half turnovers were also a problem
In addition to their inability to make shots when it matters, another reason for the Warriors’ loss on Sunday was their propensity to turn the ball over. The Warriors had 13 turnovers against the Timberwolves. Eight of those came in the second half, allowing the Timberwolves to get back into the game and erase the Warriors’ advantage.
Thompson was particularly guilty of this, turning the ball over four times, including quite a few on lazy or silly plays. Quinn Cook, starting for the injured Curry, turned the ball over three times and was guilty, particularly in the second half, of playing too recklessly and thus giving the Timberwolves more opportunities.
The Warriors have been better about turning the ball over since the All-Star break, being much more careful with the basketball. One wonders if the absence of Iguodala and West, savvy veterans who will more often than not make the smart play, contributed to the occasional carelessness that was on display against the Timberwolves. While the Warriors miss all the things that Curry brings to the table, not having Iguodala and West deprives the Warriors of their steady presences and can keep the Warriors from playing at their best.
No answer for Karl-Anthony Towns
While the Warriors’ poor (or unlucky) shooting played a big part in them losing this game, the biggest reason was that they had no way to stop Timberwolves All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns finished Sunday’s game with 31 points and 16 rebounds, an impressive performance after struggling in his past two games.
14 of Towns’ 31 points came in the fourth quarter, as the Warriors could not stop him from getting whatever he wanted on offense. The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami noted how remarkable it is to see a player like Towns be so dominant against the Warriors’ tough defense.
Said it before, still striking to see: Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the few guys in the league that Draymond has trouble with man-up. GSWs currently doubling KAT. It's a huge tribute to him.— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) March 11, 2018
Outside of Towns, the Timberwolves also got 23 points from Andrew Wiggins, in one of his better performances against the Warriors, while former Warrior Jamal Crawford contributed 12 points off the bench. But it was Towns who led the way, particularly in the closing stretch of the game to give the Timberwolves the much-needed victory over the Warriors.
A surprising double-double for Zaza
One bright spot for the Warriors was the impressive play of Zaza Pachulia. Replaced by JaVale McGee in the starting lineup, Pachulia came off the bench and gave the Warriors valuable minutes on Sunday afternoon. Playing in a season-high 25 minutes, Pachulia scored 16 points, his highest scoring output since February 10th against the Spurs. Pachulia also pulled down 11 rebounds, giving the center his first double-double of the season.
After seeing his minutes wane after his move out of the starting lineup, Pachulia made a pretty good case to be playing more against the Timberwolves. While there will be some matchups that don’t lend themselves to Pachulia getting many minutes, knowing that he’s a viable option off of the bench.
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